Forgiveness: Since the majority of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, the Hebrew word for Salach is translated into forgive. Their definition is: to forgive, pardon or spare. The online dictionary’s definition of forgive is to stop being angry or resentful against someone’s offense, flaw or mistake. Another definition is to relieve a debt. From being able to combine the two definitions, it basically means to let go of an offense, flaw or mistake.
There are two different kinds of forgiveness; there is forgiveness for our own sins and forgiveness of the sins done against us. It’s important while studying scripture to understand which of the two it’s talking about. Most of those who are against others are clearly referenced in the New Testament (example: Matthew 18:35).
Alexander Pope once said: “To err is human to forgive is divine.” People often were challenged by Jesus on the idea of how God and man can forgive; considering that Jesus was God and man. In the Old Testament, in order for sin to be forgiven, it was often required to bring animals or even people to be taken to the Temple where people meet with a priest and pardon for by animal sacrifice. But before the New Testament, it was prophesied that someone would one day come along and save the people from their sins. Finally, Jesus was sent, not only did he come to teach us what it means to die (repent) to sin but he took our place from sin. The questions are: what does this mean for us? And how does this make forgiveness divine? Was forgiveness divine in the Old Testament or only in the New Testament before Jesus died on the cross and then rose again?
According to Luke 7:49, “…those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
In Mark 2:9, it was challenged to compare which was easier; to forgive someone or believe if you told someone to get up and walk. “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?”
People began to question forgiveness as they learned from Jesus. First we need to recognize why Jesus may have brought these issues up. Jesus knew that men relied on what they saw more than what they actually believed. It wasn’t man’s faith Jesus questioned, but the heart. He could clearly see we relied on what was in front of us. But forgiving someone meant going deeper.
What does divine mean? Something that devoted to God or considered sacred. When we look Acts 17:28-30. God didn’t just see what we thought of Him but considered our relationship sacred. He desired us to have a pure heart. Many times in the Old Testament, gold and silver was often a symbolism of idolatry or beauty. However, God doesn’t want us to idolize Him in our lives, he wanted us to be intentional about our relationship with Him. Having a relationship with Him is already divine, but when deciding to forgive, it is one of the hardest thing man can do other than to have faith. Jesus saw the hardness of our hearts, it’s easier to hold onto something than to pardon. It’s easier to witness miracles, but harder to know and trust how God cares in the moment. But what’s the reward of forgiving (ourselves or others)? Matthew 6:14 says we will also be forgiven. Any anger, bitterness, feelings or actions of revenge or negative thinking of that person – will also be forgiven. Forgiveness, alone is divine, because God could have chosen to to write down everything and not let go of our wrongs. But because of Jesus, he became the perfect lamb, all of our sins were broken.
When Jesus was sharing the Lord’s prayer, it was intentional. Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus was saying as we continue to know God and His word, we begin to learn what it means of how Jesus forgave us of our debt, he also wanted us to relieve others of their debt. When Jesus died on the cross, it was something he was willing to bear so we could experience freedom but only if we desired to have that freedom. One story in Romans 12:14-21 about a debt that a servant owed to the slave master. But the slave master could have charged him and with interest! But he decided not to, he forgave him of his debt and let his servant go. The story continues in using manipulation of another servant to get what was owed. When the servant master found out what he had done, he rebuked him and threw him in jail. God wants us to experience forgiveness.
Divine forgiveness has been shown since the beginning of time. God could have killed Adam and Eve when they disobeyed in the Garden. But he didn’t. He showed mercy and grace but it meant doing they had to find a way to restore their relationship with God. The Old Testament shows over and over again of God’s forgiveness or at least mercy. But something needed to change so Jesus was sent so we could be set free.
What does this look like for me personally and how can I apply it. As I think of these stories and read into the scripture and study specific words, I think it helps me to understand what God’s character looks like. What is inhumanly impossible for me is possible for God but because through Jesus, anything is possible (Phil 4:13). He made forgiveness possible. But it means I need to examine my heart when I come before the Lord. When we don’t forgive, it leads to sin. And God hates sin. But he loves when we put out faults and other people’s faults on the altar and give it to him. Matthew 11:30 says, “my yoke is easy and burden is light.” We’re not expected to carry such burdens.
As I think about what debt really means or what it means for someone to owe me, I don’t want that kind of burden. I don’t want to carry unforgiveness around. Satan wants us to drag it around in circles for as long as we can. He laughs when we accept an offense and more so when we seek to throw the dagger back at one another (revenge). My heart thinks about all the bitterness or anger I may hold against someone because of things they’ve done or said and I realize I’m no better than most of the people that Jesus told these stories to. BUT… I can choose to decide carry these things and continue in sin. Or, I can chose to go to God and forgive. Despite knowing that I can’t do it on my own, I need to lay down my pride and let God work. As a result, I can experience the reward of freedom not only freedom for myself but knowing God has forgiven me as well.